USA Today Sports Images
COLUMBUS, Ohio- The Big Ten had a unique schedule in Week 4. With only 10 of the 14 teams in the conference playing, some were ending its non-conference schedules while some were just starting conference play. As a whole, the ranked teams, No. 4 Penn State, No. 8 Michigan and now No. 11 Ohio State won against their respective opponents, with some games being closer than others. With conference play looming for the rest of the conference, here is a look at some of the highlights from the fourth weekend of the college football season and look ahead to Week 5.
B1Ggest Game of the Week: No. 4 Penn State 21, Iowa 19
This was an easy one.
On paper, the Penn State offense dominated the Iowa offense, keeping the ball for over 19 minutes longer, recording 18 more first downs and recording 306 more yards than the Hawkeyes. However, just like Iowa seems to do in the confines of Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes made this one a game until the very end.
Trailing the Nittany Lions 15-7 heading into the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes scored two touchdowns, including a 35-yard Akrum Wadley touchdown run that seemed to put the nail in the coffin for Penn State, trailing Iowa 19-15 with 1:42 left in the game.
However, Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley went on a 12-play, 65 yard drive, ending with a seven-yard touchdown pass to receiver Juwan Johnson to give Penn State the 21-19 victory as time expired.
For Big Ten fans, there really was not a better way to begin conference play.
Runner Up: Nebraska 27, Rutgers 17
Compared to the Penn State/Iowa game, there really was not a second place for best Big Ten game of the week. At first look, it definitely was not going to be a matchup with two teams that look to be destined for the bottom of their respective divisions. However, there were some storylines, especially for Nebraska, that were entertaining throughout.
First, there is no doubt that Cornhuskers quarterback Tanner Lee had been struggling to begin the 2017 season, throwing seven interceptions in his first three games. That problem did not change against the Scarlet Knights, throwing two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown, but Lee did have some shining moments.
Trailing Rutgers 17-14 after throwing the pick-six, Lee led Nebraska on a 17-play, 97 yard scoring drive that ended in Lee’s second touchdown pass of the day, an eight-yard pass to receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El to give the Cornhuskers the go-ahead score.
Lee’s performance may not be enough to beat a team like No. 10 Wisconsin, who Nebraska will play in two weeks, but it was good enough to get the Cornhuskers past Rutgers.
Worst Game of the Week: Notre Dame 38, Michigan State 18
Coming into its Week 4 matchup against Notre Dame, Michigan State had given up only 24 total points against Bowling Green and Western Michigan in the first two games of the season. Despite having 141 more total yards than the Fighting Irish, the Spartans really shot themselves in the foot in the 20-point loss.
Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke threw a game-high 340 yards passing with two touchdowns. However, his only interception of the game was returned 59 yards by Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love for a touchdown. Michigan State running back L.J. Scott rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries, but fumbled and lost possession near the goal line that would have probably led to another Spartan touchdown.
Michigan State does not have an easy schedule to start conference play. A 20-point loss to the Fighting Irish does not help things.
Stat of the Week: 358 all-purpose yards
When it comes to the Penn State offense, only one name should come to mind. Saquon Barkley proved again, Saturday night, why he may be, not only the best player in the Big Ten, but in the country.
As a running back, he was the focal point of the Nitanny Lions rush offense, rushing for a season-high 211 yards on the ground on 28 carries. Averaging 7.5 yards per rush, Barkley was also the main target in the passing game as well. He led Penn State with 12 receptions and 94 yards, with his longest reception going for 15 yards.
However, despite all of the touches in the running and passing game, Barkley scored only one touchdown on an eight-yard run with 5:16 to go in the third quarter.
No matter how many times this back scores, there is no doubt that Penn State has something special with Barkley in the backfield.
One to Look Forward To: Maryland at Minnesota
USA Today Sports Images
Despite playing Buffalo, Oregon State and Middle Tennessee in the first three games of the 2017 season, P.J. Fleck and his Minnesota team have been quietly coming into conference play with one of the top defenses in the conference. The Gophers have given up an average of 239 yards of offense in the first three games, giving up an average of eight points per game.
The Gophers have really excelled in rush defense. Giving up only an average of 59 yards rushing, Minnesota has only given up one rushing touchdown this season.
The first conference matchup of the season for Minnesota could test that rush defense. Averaging 5.8 yards per carry, Maryland has scored 10 of its 15 total touchdowns on the ground in 2017.
Leading the charge, running back Ty Johnson has 281 yards on 28 carries with a team-leading three touchdowns. However, in the Terrapins 38-10 loss to UCF, the Knights found a way to stop Johnson, allowing him to rush for only 25 yards on 11 attempts.
The ability to stop the Terrapins rush offense has been done. It will be a challenge for the Gophers to “row the boat” to defensive stoutness Saturday afternoon.
Big Ten Schedule- Week 5
Friday, September 29th
Nebraska at Illinois- 8 pm ET on FS1
Saturday, September 30th
Northwestern at No. 10 Wisconsin- 12 pm ET on ABC
Maryland at Minnesota- 12 pm ET on FS1
Indiana at No. 4 Penn State- 3:30 pm ET on BTN
Iowa at Michigan State- 4 pm ET on FOX
No. 11 Ohio State at Rutgers- 7:30 ET on BTN